I decided to conduct my interview based upon arguably one of the most important sources of media that has now been in use for well over 80 years. Instead of interviewing somebody that had television introduced to them at a certain point in their life, I decided to interview somebody that has had it in their lives for as long as they can remember. My mother who is now fifty answered many questions on the transitions that she has witnessed whilst growing up with television.
It is made clear to me from the offset that the changes my mother is being asked questions on are not changes she can really recall actually happening. Her transition from black and white to colour and then through the increases in quality are not something she focuses greatly on. They seem to be changes that just happened, she recalls being “Excited” for colour television but then she cannot tell me a memory of it being presented to her or even watching any specific programs in colour. This makes me question the fact that she claims she was “Excited”, was she just feeding me this answer because she felt that she should have been?
Karl Marx’s Theory of the Commodity Fetish could be drawn upon here. “I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.” (Marx, 1990). This explains that people feel they need to have a new product because they are told that it will improve their lives. A new commodity is produced to replace and older one but it doesn’t always improve and sometimes the change isn’t even noticeable.
Throughout the course of the interview the subjects my mother has been focusing on change. Towards the beginning of the interview she focuses on TV shows. When asked about her earliest memories of television she mentions her favorite shows like ‘Bill and Ben’ and ‘The Magic Roundabout’ then when asked about her teenage years she mentions the introduction of ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘Coronation Street’. These answers are all based around her immediate memories without thought of the costs involved or the choice of channels and variety that was available to her.
As the interview progressed I started to ask about her memories of owning television in her adult years. She mentions the year that she “rented” her own television and then calculates the year that she was married and when she bought her own house with my father and provides me with the exact year in which she rented the device which was 1988. It is interesting to note that this is the first time such specifics have been used in regards to dates.
She then talks to me about her first memories of cable television and the recurrent theme of price is mentioned. She recalls switching to Telewest (Now Virgin Media) from sky when moving to her second house because of the drop in price that she was offered. Also when asked the final question “What do you think are the main differences from your first memory of television and today’s?”. The first answer I receive is that “It is a lot more expensive”.It is clear that my Mother’s love of television has been fractured by the constant drain of monthly bills a factor that never existed at the beginning of her life when her parents paid those bills.
At the beginning she focuses on her love of specific programs and mentions nothing about the incredibly limited choice she had. In comparison at the end of the interview she is complaining about the poor quality of some of today’s programs and complains about the trash that she is provided with on her 300+ channels claiming that we are becoming “like America” in regards to channel flicking.
My Mother clearly has shows and channels that she adores but doesn’t mention them at all. It would be interesting to compare my mothers decreasing love of television with other people from her generation to see if it is a recurrent theme or just a one off.
Marx, K. (1990) Capital, Volume 1. : Penguin.